Presently, mainstay of Pakistan’s foreign policy is completion of C-Pak Economic Corridor and thereafter successful running its operations to reap its economic benefits to the fullest. As we have already seen through many related articles on this blog, C-Pak Corridor is not only an economic enterprise, it is going to change regional political and defense scenario. Consequently Pakistan’s foreign policy related challenges are also related to regional political, economic and defense strategies adopted by various regional and international players.
The most important player is the USA. The USA’s first policy option was to install and strengthen a secular pro-USA regime- like the present Afghanistan’s regime- in Afghanistan through which USA might secure its vital regional interests, like keeping away the regional Muslim countries away from the likely emerging economic, political, and defense regional block under China’s umbrella. The C-Pak Economic Corridor is actually a vanguard to establish such regional political and defense block consisting China, Pakistan, Iran, central Asia, and possibly Russia and Western Asia later on. Having failed in its first policy option, the USA’s second policy option is to support such a so called Islamic regime in Afghanistan which might protect the USA’s regional interests, by keeping Afghanistan away from China’s circle of influence; that is why we see USA’s efforts to forge an alliance between Afghan Taliban and Afghan regime by including Taliban in the present Afghan regime set up. But Taliban, coming closer to China and involving China in Afghan talks, foiled USA’s second policy option to keep Afghanistan away from China. Resultantly the USA disrupted peace dialogue between Afghan Taliban and Afghan regime, first time, by disclosing the news of death of Mulla Omar, and, second time, by killing Mulla Akhtar Mansoor in a Drone attack. Presently, USA’s policy is to let Afghanistan plunge in turmoil because anarchic Afghanistan which is located in the heart of likely regional economic, political and defense block, would be a real hurdle in the way of establishment of such a block. (for details plz see http://secondriseofislam.blogspot.com/2015/08/the-usas-second-policy-option-in_4.html).
Iran is another important regional player which may impact scope of likely regional block, by including or not including in the prospective regional block. Iran, being isolated among the Muslim world due to its sectarian policies, is desperately looking for economic and political friends to strengthen its security. Iran has important stakes in Afghanistan and cannot afford a hostile regime in Afghanistan under Taliban. After economic sanctions are lifted, Iran was left, and still left, with two options; Iran might become a part of C-Pak Economic Corridor, OR, Iran may join USA block to oppose this Economic Corridor Project. Iran knows that prospective regional block cannot be fully integrated without stability in Afghanistan. There are two ways to get stability in Afghanistan; either Taliban and present Afghan regime get together in alliance to form a broad based government in Afghanistan OR, any one of the two groups is powerful enough to topple down the other group from the position of power. Iran, instead of joining C-Pak Project and working for broad based Afghan government fully netted with C-Pak, has unfortunately opted for strengthening present Afghan regime at the cost of Taliban and C-Pak. As the present Afghan regime, despite Iran’s and USA’s support, cannot be powerful enough to crush Taliban, Iran’s present policy in Afghanistan can yield no better results than that of USA’s- i.e. continued civil war in Afghanistan.
Iran is also collaborating with India to strengthen present Afghan regime, and constructing Chah-bahar Port as a competitor of Gawadar Port i.e. a project to vanguard project of C-Pak Economic Corridor. India is openly opposing C-Pak and Iran is in open collaboration with India for the purpose. India’s opposition to C-Pak is understandable; India is hostile state to Pakistan and cannot tolerate a Pakistan occupying a central position at regional political stage due to successful C-Pak project. But Iran’s opposition to C-Pak cannot be called a wise decision; because Iran may also be beneficiary of C-Pak through Gawadar Port. Iran may develop Chah Bahar Port but, for that purpose, it is not necessary to give Chah Bahar a color of competitor of Gawadar. Iran-Indian Defense Pact 2003- which allows India to use Iran’s military and naval bases in case of war even against Pakistan- clearly shows Iran’s great sense of insecurity and sheer false arrogance which has made Iran a hostage of sectarian policies since Iran’s revolution.
In short, Iran’s present policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan, being tinged with sectarianism and sheer arrogance, is not a good omen for Pakistan’s C-Pak Project and needs a befitting reply from Pakistan. Iran's economic prospects are not so promising as to put Iran at the central stage of regional politics. Out of $26.2 b Chinese projects in Iranian oil fields, $22.2 b projects have been cancelled or suspended. Iran’s present economy is $400 b plus (2014) and can grow at the rate of 5-7% in the coming ten years; even if it grows at 8% in the next decade, it would be standing at 870 b plus after ten years (in 2025). . As for military capability of Iran, it has been reduced to scratches and Iran is depending on Indian help to renovate it. As against these bare facts, Iran’s false arrogance needs to be cut to match its real stature, if they become a threat to Pakistan’s security.
Russia is also becoming an important regional player which may impact C-Pak Project. Russia being aware of benefits likely to be accrued from C-Pak may also contribute to make this project a success. Russia may realize its centuries long dream of having access to warm waters by becoming a partner of C-Pak Project.
Similarly Western Asian Muslim countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, and Central Asian Muslim Nations may achieve a lot in terms of economic, political and defense benefits, by becoming a part of C-Pak Project.
From the foregoing, it becomes clear that the countries whose interests are attached with C-Pak Project or those who can gain economic, political and defense benefits out of this project cannot avail such benefits without adopting an active and aggressive policy in this regard. The states like USA, India and Iran – which are opposing this project- would not let this project run with full benefits, by creating an anarchic Afghanistan. The pro-Project states should come out with all out support for Afghan Taliban so that Taliban may overthrow Afghan regime OR a broad based Afghan regime free from USA's influences, and fully netted with C-Pak may be established.